Yep, we're the online equivalent of those people that keep on saying "Happy New Year" way beyond the 1st of January.
But some of our Best of 2012 Q&As took a little longer to return than others and we couldn't omit the Nike
Flyknit project as a whole — the Racer, Trainer and HTM releases had to get a mention here. We don't care what your brand or shoe allegiance is - you had to appreciate the Flyknit aesthetic, because it was the best thing to happen to new shoe design since the Lunaracer in 2008, the Free 5.0 in 2004, or our first glimpse of the Presto and Woven in 2000. It's a significant moment in shoes that arrived at the right time. The Flyknit releases weren't cheap and they were initially tough to track down, but with hype directed at a brand new shoe, performance at the core and the return of Hiroshi, Tinker and Mark's top tier think tanking, it's the sum total of pretty much everything that's gone before. This is a probable future classic, but by this point we assumed we would have seen Flyknit Force 1s, Flyknit Dunks and Flyknit Air Max makeups by the tons, but Nike seems to have paid attention to the sense of tech luxury that the shoes delivered and the sole evolution of the existing trio of styles is the release of the excellent Flyknit Lunar1
in February — exactly 12 months since we were introduced to this shoe. We caught up with Ben Shaffer — Innovation Lead on Nike Flyknit — to quickly discuss the shoes' impact.
Ben, when was the Flyknit project instigated?
Within innovation we’re always looking at new technologies to rethink how we build product. Delivering better fit, support and lightweight footwear has always been one of our priorities. We were exploring knitting processes over a decade ago and toying with the broader possibility of making holistic performance sock shoes.
Now Flyknit's been out for nearly a year now. Are you still a little thrown by the success of it?
There’s certainly a huge level of pride that I share with my team of engineers, innovators, and material gurus but it’s also given us even greater fuel to deliver more as we evolve the technology. When we had tested out some of the earlier prototypes with athletes a number of years back, their response let us know we had something special. It was more patience and anticipation because we knew something good was going to shake up the industry.
Are you inspired by any Nike shoes specifically? We felt it was the lineage of Woven, Presto and Free...
All the way back to shoes as early as the Sock Racer hinted at a future to come. We focused on providing the kind of comfort, fit and natural motion Nike Free and Presto delivered while addressing the need for structure and support all in one fabric. At the core, we design for athlete performance.
How did the HTM part of the project start? Was Tinker involved at an early stage — did it pass through the "zoo"?
One of the core ethos of HTM was to exemplify new technologies, so Nike Flyknit was a perfect pairing. The team was excited about the potential of Nike Flyknit, from performance to colour curation.
Is Flyknit a work in progress? Is it something that's constantly being improved? We've seen the Flyknit Lunar1 that drops next year — were you involved in that shoe?
Nike Flyknit is continuing to evolve. Within innovation our job is to consider and experiment around how we can proliferate the benefits and construction of new technologies. With the Nike Flyknit Lunar1+, the comfort and cushioning of Lunarlon paired with the glove-like fit of Nike Flyknit made for a perfect combination. I worked on the upper while the Running design team crafted the Lunarlon tooling.
Is it difficult to keep a project under wraps nowadays? It seemed to be a shock when it arrived despite appearing in a major marathon in January.
It’s always difficult to keep things sealed that have years of development and testing. The quieter we approach the more we can refine and the greater we hope to inspire.